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Referee Barnes the thorn in Graham Henry's side

Published: 7:11AM Sunday July 29, 2012 Source: Fairfax

A few days after returning from the Cardiff catastrophe, Graham Henry realised the storm of criticism and anger raging against him was too much to bear, so he escaped.

He and wife Raewyn went to Hervey Bay, a beach resort in Queensland, about 200km north of Brisbane.

While there he had to complete his head coach's report for the New Zealand Rugby Union. The board wanted a major post-mortem to identify why the All Blacks had failed to achieve their objectives at the World Cup.

After a day's fishing, Henry rose at 4:30am - something he'd always done as All Blacks coach - to watch the video.

His gut feeling, according to his biography Final Word, was that the video "would confirm that referee Wayne Barnes and his touch judges, Jonathan Kaplan from South Africa and Tony Spreadbury from England, hadn't exactly covered themselves in glory at the Millennium Stadium, that they had missed an obvious forward pass when France scored its match-winning try - a pass so forward everyone in the stadium had witnessed it except the referee - and that Barnes had been pretty lenient on the French at the breakdowns, probably costing the All Blacks the game".

The video had three different angles and featured statistical breakdowns of lineouts, scrums, penalties, tackle counts, territory and possession. On those statistics, the All Blacks dominated. They had an overwhelming 73 per cent territorial advantage, winning 166 rucks to France's 42 and making only 73 tackles compared with France's 331.

Yet they had not been awarded a single penalty in the final 50 minutes; in fact, Barnes had penalised France only twice in the entire game. Henry says he was so shocked by what he saw, he became nauseous before actually throwing up - and he'd only got to halftime.

His final analysis was that Barnes missed 40 penalty infringements by France and that if New Zealand had got all the penalties they deserved, the final score should been 42-3 or 42-6.

Mind-boggled, Henry couldn't comprehend how an under-seige France had infringed so often and gotten away with it. He momentarily let the thought of match-fixing enter his mind before dismissing it.

Most New Zealand rugby fans were so gutted by the outcome, so shocked at the result, he believes, they never revisited the match to fully understand what went on.

Henry has never gone public with his thoughts, until now, but his report to the NZRU pointed out the one-sided nature of the officiating.

The book states: "He told them he believed, given the graphic video evidence available, that the NZRU should pressure the International Rugby Board to institute an inquiry. He also emphasised that it was incomprehensible that the IRB did not have strategies in place to investigate bizarre matches. And when it came to bizarre, this World Cup quarter-final was an absolute doozy.

"As far as Graham was concerned, the major reason the All Blacks had lost was not because of conditioning or rotation policies or decisions by his captain, but purely and simply because the officials had refereed only one team, to a degree unprecedented in the history of the sport.

"He knew if a comparable situation had occurred in other sports, it would be investigated. But there existed a blissful purity about rugby, or at least that's how everyone wanted to perceive it. It wasn't politically correct to even suggest the match officials might have favoured one team."

The NZRU board obviously took on board Henry's complaints against Barnes - it reappointed him coach - it wisely ignored his call for a full-scale inquiry into the officiating of the match.

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